Creating Art for Worship - Durga Puja 2017. | Milaap

Creating Art for Worship - Durga Puja 2017.

Have you ever looked at the magnificent pavilions with their glorious idols and intrinsic details, and wondered how such unique ideas and themes are inducted into them? How are these simply made pandals turned into works of art?

Even though professional artists are increasingly being called upon for their skill, a huge portion of the entire building process relies on rural Bengal for their skill. The preparation for building Pandals begins at the start of the year. The organizers of the Pujas, sign contracts with the workers at an earlier stage. Only a month or two before the Durga Pujas, do they begin working at a rapid pace.

Having visited Samudragarh and Kalna in the Burdwan district of Bengal, in the months prior to the celebrations, I was given an insight into the entire artistic process of Pandal making. The bamboo business flourishes during this time of the year. In every nook and corner of the villages, one can witness a multitude of these activities take place. Bamboo thrives in West Bengal, not only due to the soil and the weather. But it also thrives because it is the most integrated part of the culture and tradition.

'Durga Puja indeed means a celebration for us. My husband's bamboo business does very well at this time of the year. That is because retailers purchase large amounts of it and export it to the city. It is a time for profit, happiness, and rejuvenation for my family,' said Ganjura Bibi, a mother of two, living in the Burdwan district. Several skilled workers flock to the cities in order to carry forward the cultural legacy of grand Durga Puja celebration.

The Roots of The Tradition

As per Hindu mythology, the first Durga Puja was celebrated by Lord Rama, before declaring war on Ravana. Folklore has it that in a bygone era, the zamindars and landlords of Dinajpur and Malda continued this tradition by initiating the first grand Durga Puja in Bengal. Other sources reveal that Raja Kangshanarayan of Teherpur, Nadiya was the first to organize the first Durga Puja festival in autumn in AD 1606.

The festival has its roots in Hindu mythology. However, over the years it has become more than just a symbol of religion or a belief in ancient folklore. Besides being a tradition that is heralded all over the world, it is a feeling that all of Bengal associates with deeply. The community Puja can be traced to the twelve friends of Guptipara in Hoogly, West Bengal, who was the first to collect money from the local residents and organize the first small-scale community puja in 1970. Now, at the threshold of every lane and street in Kolkata, you will find a group of residents reveling in their very own pandals.

The Real Artist of Bengal - Skilled Labor

Most pandal artists have their own teams, that comprise of farmers, masons, carpenters, electricians, painters, etc., who take care of various parts of pandal making such as building the structure of pandal. 'Like all traditional forms of folk art that are handed down from one generation to another, most pandal makers have gained their knowledge of pandal making as children working with their fathers or someone who is adept at the craft,' said Prasanta Ray, sociologist and Professor Emeritus, Presidency University.

The idols are made in several areas, a major one of them being Kumartali in Kolkata. The idols are hand-made and painted to perfection. It is then that they are taken to several parts of the city and housed in their respective Puja Pandals.

The Strokes of Creativity

While hard-work is a defining characteristic of the Durga Puja in Bengal, creativity is what gives it its glory and grandeur. Bengali culture and creativity finds manifestation in each of these stately pavilions, that we usually call Pandals. Every year, Bengali tradition is mirrored in the pandals of Kolkata, and this year was no exception. The decoration depicts a myriad of themes, starting from issues such as climate change to the rich musical heritage of the state.

While grandeur was all the rage in some parts of the city, simply created pandals pulled crowds in others. In Bakul Bagan Sarojini, the artist, Bimal Samanta used Bamboo as the central theme.

This simply created pandal depicted child labor. Several artists chose to reflect a social message in their art.

Bijoya Dashami brought the 10 days of Pujas and the 5 days of celebrations to an end, on 30th October. People flocked from all parts of Bengal, to view these majestic creations. But having spoken to many, I could conclude that the festival is more than just a celebration. To some, it is a time for rejuvenation. While others agree that it makes them one with the community and their city. 'My family visited Kolkata from our hometown. Durga Pujas give me an opportunity to spend time with my family. Although I am personally not a huge fan of touring the city, pandal-hopping makes my children happy, so I enjoy as well,' said a resident of Kharda.